Italy and Spain revive idea of overseas ’39th game’

A so-called “39th game”, shorthand to describe a regular season match played overseas, is back on the agenda according to AC Milan’s commercial director Japp Kalma and Malaga vice-president Moayad Shatat.


Speaking on Sunday to delegates at the Soccerex Asian Forum at the King Hussein convention centre, some 60kms from the Jordanian capital Amman, both men said they supported the idea.

Kalma said Serie A clubs were discussing the move, having already played the Italian Super Coppa in Qatar.

“It’s one of the things we’re discussing, yes,” he said.

“I can see it happening. What we have already done is play the Super Coppa, the match between the winners of the Coppa Italia and the league champions, in Qatar.

“That’s a relatively easy match because that’s not a match that is part of a competition. One of the other things in Serie A we are studying is having the season opener or another emblematic match during the season played abroad.”

Shatat agreed that the idea of an overseas match would help the leagues, which have fallen behind the Premier League’s global reach in terms of TV viewing figures and commercial contracts.

“Nothing can beat the experience of a live event,” he said. “We can push it through different channels like social media, but nothing can beat the live experience. Now we will hopefully have games abroad involving regular season matches.

“Last year we created a new tournament, the La Liga World Challenge where the clubs are travelling abroad and playing friendly matches and tournaments in order for the fans to experience La Liga live.

“We want to bring the live experience closer to the fans who support us around the world,” he added.

Football fans, especially those brought up on Europe’s major leagues, are often resistant to change and the Premier League’s proposal to play a game overseas was dropped partly due to the vehemence of supporters in England.

However, it has become the norm in other sports with the National Football League and National Basketball Association playing games outside of the United States.

Three of those regular season NFL games will be played at Wembley Stadium in London this year.

(Reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Alan Baldwin)

Blue is the colour as Chelsea claim title

There was no show-boating from Jose Mourinho’s ruthlessly efficient side and there were a few jitters as they held on to Eden Hazard’s goal scored just before halftime.


Victory moved Chelsea to 83 points from 35 games, 13 points clear of Manchester City who hid the disappointment of handing over their title by winning 1-0 at sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday’s late kickoff.

Sergio Aguero’s 22nd league goal of the season in that game ended a run of four consecutive away defeats for Manuel Pellegrini’s side.

City are three clear of Arsenal in the race for runners-up spot with the Gunners, who have five games to play, at relegation battlers Hull City on Monday.

Chelsea’s fifth single-goal victory margin in their last seven league games sparked raucous scenes around the ground and on the pitch, with ever-present skipper John Terry leading the celebrations with veteran striker Didier Drogba.

“I am very happy and proud. I need a rest, I’m tired. It’s not easy to cope with that, but finally mathematically we are champions now,” said a calm and measured Mourinho, who won back-to-back titles in 2004-05 and 05-06.

“Finally we can breathe, relax and enjoy. We can look back and see how much we deserve to be champions.”

With blue ticker-tape raining down in the sunshine, Chelsea’s players completed a lap of honour with ironic chants of “boring, boring Chelsea” ringing out.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Terry, who sunk to his knees on hearing the final whistle, told Sky Sports. “We’ve worked so hard, so to get over the line is great.

“This is what I live for. It’s been five years since we’ve won it. The first one was special and you go four or five years without it and that hurts. So I’ll really enjoy it today.”


Blustery, grey conditions had lingered for much of Sunday morning but kickoff in west London was greeted by the sudden emergence of sunshine which reflected the celebratory mood.

A midweek 3-1 victory at Leicester City meant three points against Palace would be enough for Chelsea to become English champions for the fifth time, but Alan Pardew’s Palace side were in no mood to play the role of bystanders.

Pardew had won four of his previous six matches as an opposition coach against Chelsea and from the opening stages it was evident his mid-table side had designs on postponing the Blues’ title celebrations.

Chelsea were almost gifted a fortuitous lead in the 22nd minute when Palace keeper Julian Speroni punched wildly at Cesc Fabregas’s free kick but Nemanja Matic, afforded the freedom of the penalty area, dithered and his shot was diverted wide.

Terry was then lucky to escape conceding a penalty when he appeared to block Jason Puncheon’s drive with his arm.

With halftime looming, talisman Hazard had been relatively anonymous by his own standards but he burst into life to draw a challenge from James McArthur and win a penalty.

His spot kick was awful, straight at Speroni, but the ball bounced up invitingly and the Belgian guided a header home.

The second half was a stop-start affair. Drogba wasted a great chance to double the lead and Puncheon fired inches wide for Palace who remained a threat on the counter-attack but never really threatened to gatecrash the party.

Chelsea have lost only twice all season in the league, the sort of consistency that Palace manager Alan Pardew recognised made them the benchmark for the rest.

“That’s why he (Mourinho) earns the money he does. He wins. He wins trophies and he will win them in any manner he thinks is right for that particular occasion,” said Pardew, who got one over the Portuguese this season when still in charge of Newcastle United.

(Reporting by Tom Hayward; editing by Toby Davis and Martyn Herman)

Traore winner keeps Gladbach on Champions League course

The Guinea international curled a superb shot past keeper Thomas Kraft to lift Gladbach to 60 points, two ahead of Bayer Leverkusen, who beat already-champions Bayern Munich 2-0 on Saturday.


Gladbach are also just two behind second-placed VfL Wolfsburg, with three matches left to play. Schalke 04 are a distant fifth on 45.

Gladbach took the lead through Max Kruse from close range in the 11th minute but only two minutes later Hertha levelled with Swiss Valentin Stocker’s header after the ball bounced off the bar from a Genki Haraguchi cross.

Gladbach’s Granit Xhaka came close three times in the second half with Hertha boxed deep in their own half but the visitors could not find the winner until Traore released his unstoppable shot from the edge of the box for their sixth win in seven matches.

The top three qualify for the Champions League group stage while the fourth team will need to play a qualifying round.


Hamburg SV’s Gojko Kacar scored a late winner as the former European champions stunned Mainz 2-1 to move away from the relegation zone with their second straight win.

The Serbian midfielder curled home a low drive in the 87th minute. Julian Baumgartlinger’s headed own goal had put Hamburg ahead in the first half before Yunus Malli levelled for the hosts in the 76th minute.

Victory lifted Hamburg, the only team to have played every season in the Bundesliga since its creation in 1963, up to 14th on 31 points, one point above the relegation playoff spot with three games left in the season.

Mainz, who had defender Daniel Brosinski sent off in the 89th minute, lost Colombian Elkin Soto to a serious knee injury after half an hour.

The 34-year-old former Colombia international was stretchered off after he miskicked while Rafael van der Vaart was challenging for the ball.

The club said he had dislocated his knee and likely tore two ligaments as well as his meniscus and would remain in hospital.

The defeat was a bitter blow to Mainz as it all but ended their hopes of playing European football next season and left them 10th in the table on 37 points.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Toby Davis/Alan Baldwin)

Nadal coming to terms with rankings slide

Yet things have not gone to plan this season.


While last year’s injury woes seem to have passed, their legacy is a lack of form and a drop in confidence that have left him struggling for results.

Since hitting the big time in 2005, when he won the first of his record nine French Open titles, Nadal has never entered the fifth month of a season with only one solitary title — that too a low key tournament in Buenos Aires where the highest ranked opponent he faced was world number 59 Federico Delbonis.

The Spaniard, who also owns eight Monte Carlo and eight Barcelona Open trophies, is now preparing to play at the Madrid Open in front of his home fans on the back of his worst run of results.

Desperately hoping to pick up form ahead of the French Open later this month, he is facing up to the fact that his ranking is on the slide.

He has not finished the season outside the top five in more than 10 years, but is now number four and heading in the wrong direction.

“We will see how far I have fallen after Roland Garros,” Nadal told reporters in Madrid.

“This is part of sport. Other times I have been able to maintain a high ranking because I have returned quickly but this has not been the case now.

“If you have injuries that keep you out for six months then that is six months without picking up any points and it is difficult to hold your position over a year.”

Nadal was buoyed by a solid performance at the Monte Carlo Masters in early April where he was beaten by Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.

Yet rather than building on that display, he was promptly shunted out of the Barcelona Open in the third round by Italian Fabio Fognini.

Now is perhaps not the time to be experimenting with alternative hardware, so the new racket he used in the last two tournaments has been binned in favour of the previous model.

“I have decided to do it because I have played with it for many years and I had only a few days to prepare with the new racket ahead of Monte Carlo,” the four-times Madrid Open winner said.

“There is nothing wrong with the other racket, it is perfectly fine and I just need more time to practice with it. I am conscious that I have less control.”

(Editing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

Aguero overshadows Kane in battle for Golden Boot

With Chelsea already celebrating capturing City’s Premier League title across London, last season’s champions were indebted to Aguero’s sharp-shooting skills and keeper Joe Hart’s agility as they earned a 1-0 win to stay in second place.


Aguero now leads the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot with 22 goals this season, two more than Kane who endured a frustrating game as the hosts all but kissed goodbye to their already slender top-four hopes.

The Argentine’s goals have proved in vain in trying to keep City on the heels of Chelsea. But his quality was too much for Tottenham as City virtually guaranteed a Champions League berth.

Aguero has now scored 10 times against Tottenham and his latest effort was a gem.

A lightning City break in the 29th minute saw Hart find David Silva with a quick throw and the Spaniard’s through ball was perfect for the striker who fired past Hugo Lloris.

“We started off a bit frantic then we got it together, with Sergio up front he’s always going to get us a goal and we defended with our lives at the back and we got the win,” City keeper Hart, who made crucial stops from England duo Kane and Ryan Mason, told Sky Sports.

“It was a terrific run from David, an easy pass for me and Sergio does the rest, which he’s proved that he’s absolutely fantastic at.”

While City’s season has been a disappointment, boss Manuel Pellegrini said people should wait until the end of the season before evaluating it.

“I think it’s important to finish as near the top as possible and see where we need to improve,” he said. “Maybe Chelsea are more consistent this year and they won the league but we scored more when we did it.

“We have to finish the season now and then we will analyse it.”

With three games to play, City are 13 points behind champions Chelsea and three above Arsenal who have two games in hand.

(Editing by Mark Meadows)